Remember those old Mickey Rooney & Judy Garland movies of the1930’s and 40’s? They solved their community problem by staging a “show.” They sang and danced into a happy, if improbable, ending. Quartet has a similar simple, feel-good, magical, happily-ever-after plot. Only with a geriatric twist.
The setting is stately retirement home in the English countryside needing an influx of funds for its survival. The residents are former operatic and classical musicians. The “harmonious” balance in relationships among the residents is disrupted by the arrival of a former opera diva, who has issues with her own aging and an ex-husband also residing there. Let’s get Diva to join our gala event so we can raise enough money to rescue our Victorian home. In the process, Diva learns her remaining life lessons.
My reaction to this film is unfairly sarcastic. If you are looking for a great story, you should pass this by. However, it is just the right film for a cold, rainy day and a cup of hot cocoa. The scenery is delightful and the pacing is measured and, for the most part, calm. Diva is played by Maggie Smith who can’t be on screen without riveting your attention. All the characters are very credible and enjoyable, particularly the flirtatious Irish tenor and Cissy, the occasionally disoriented. I loved the phrase: “Cissy’s gone walkabout.”
From a geriatric perspective, an important message is stated early in the film, when staff points out a fellow resident, a famous conductor, and Diva sniffs “I know who he was.” These characters have lost their identities as royalty in their field. As many work-focused retirees discover, work place identity fades. Retirement provides the opportunity to define oneself in more universal terms. The characters in Quartet conclude that they have no time left for regrets, quarrels, or competition. They learn to give of themselves and to enjoy each other in whatever time they have.Q